In this week’s roundup, China restricts foreign access to data, the US releases New START data to pressure Russia, the G7 convenes in Hiroshima, and the Supreme Court rejects lawsuits against Google and Twitter. 

Industrial Policy & International Security

Chinese data restrictions undermine US-China stability | TheMessenger

Paul Scharre, vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, writes that China has implemented restrictions on overseas access to domestic data sources. Reportedly, analysis from US think tanks using Chinese data have unsettled leadership in Beijing. The move is part of a broader crackdown on information coming out of China. The restrictions deny those outside China access to crucial facts about economic and corporate activities. Additionally, China has increased pressure on foreign consulting firms and expanded its anti-espionage law, creating a chilling effect for those operating in China. The lack of information about what’s happening on the ground in China may exacerbate mutual suspicion between the US and China, making it even harder to manage the risks and maintain some partnerships. Scharre observes that, as tensions rise, Beijing further restricts lines of communication. Restricting access to Chinese data is only the latest casualty; officials have also denied requests for dialogue and have neglected to answer the crisis “hotline.”

US releases nuclear warhead data in bid to pressure Russia | Al Jazeera

Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would suspend participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) established with the US in 2011, and renewed in 2021 for another five years. Through transparency and verification measures, the treaty aims to monitor and limit the number of nuclear warheads, long-range missiles, and bombers deployed by both countries. In a bid to encourage Russia to release its data in compliance with New START, the US publicly announced that it currently has 1,419 deployed nuclear warheads; 662 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers; and 800 delivery systems in its arsenal. As per the updated New START agreements, the US and Russia are allowed to possess up to 1,550 nuclear warheads and up to 700 missiles and bombers respectively. Experts estimate that Russia could have a stockpile of up to 6,000 nuclear warheads.

G7 Summit F-16 training for Ukraine and new Russia sanctions highlight first day of talks | Forbes

The G7 summit in Hiroshima witnessed swift agreement on further sanctions against Russia and increased economic independence from China. The discussions were dominated by Russia's war in Ukraine, with leaders expressing full support for Ukraine and committing to sanctions targeting exports that fund Russia's military campaign. They also called upon Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran to commit or recommit to reducing their nuclear weapon arsenals, and issued a draft communique focused on reducing G7 countries’ economic dependence on China (although it clarified that the policies did not seek to hinder China’s economic progress). AI regulation was discussed, but no new regulations were agreed upon, and discussions on fossil fuel reduction were yet to materialize. The G7 summit will continue, with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky set to attend. The reactions of Russia to the proposed sanctions remain uncertain.

US Regulation

Senators grill former SVB CEO over “fatally mismanaged” bank | Axios

This week, the Senate Banking Committee scrutinized former executives from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank regarding the failures of their financial institutions. SVB witnessed an unprecedented bank run as deposit withdrawals reached $42 billion within ten hours, followed by $100 billion in withdrawal requests the next day. The executives faced blame for mismanagement and failure to hedge against interest rate risk. Republican and Democratic Senators criticized the executives and raised concerns about their compensation. Lax regulation and regulatory failures were also identified as compensation through proposed legislation. Throughout the hearing, the executives appeared to shift blame onto external factors. Regulators also faced questioning about the bank collapses and potential rule changes for larger banks. A separate hearing including bank regulators considered more stringent rules for banks with more than $100 billion in assets. 

Montana becomes first state to ban TikTok, but court challenges are likely | The Washington Post

On Wednesday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte banned the use of TikTok within the state. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2024. While the US government and many other states have already banned public officials from using the app, Montana is the first state to ban TikTok for all state residents. Under this legislation, users themselves are not subject to fines, but mobile stores that make TikTok available for download will be fined $10,000 per day. Additionally, TikTok is not permitted to operate the app within the state. Lawsuits are expected to challenge the ban. TikTok released a statement saying that Montanans could continue using the app and that they would work to protect the rights of their users within the state. Governor Gianforte also issued a ban on Russian and Chinese-owned applications, including Telegram and WeChat, for state agencies and government users. Other state and federal policymakers will watch Montana closely as they continue to explore options to regulate TikTok operations. 


NASA picks Blue Origin-led team to build second human landing system on the moon, joining SpaceX | TechCrunch

NASA has chosen a Blue Origin-led team to develop a second lunar landing system for the Artemis program, as they seek to provide competition with SpaceX and support long-term moon exploration. The team includes Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics. The contract is valued at $3.4 billion, but Blue Origin plans to contribute more, bringing the total cost to over $7 billion. The team will demonstrate uncrewed and crewed landers for the Artemis V mission, aiming for a launch no earlier than September 2029. The selection comes after NASA chose SpaceX for the initial human landing system, prompting protests. SpaceX and the Blue Origin-led team can compete for future crewed missions beyond Artemis V. The Artemis program seeks to establish a permanent human presence on the moon. The Artemis III launch, scheduled for 2025, will be the first manned mission of the program to touch down on the lunar surface. 

A soft e-skin mimics the way human skin can sense things | MIT Technology Review

Researchers from Stanford University, including chemical engineering professor Zhenan Bao, have developed a soft electronic skin that could enhance the sensory capabilities of prosthetics. The e-skin contains sensors to measure temperature and pressure. This information is transmitted as electrical signals to an implanted electrode in the brain. Variations in frequency are used to differentiate between sensations. In tests on rats, the e-skin successfully detected varying levels of pressure, triggering leg movements corresponding to the brain’s response. Previous e-skins relied on rigid external components to send electronic signals and restricted natural movement, making them impractical for integration with prosthetics. The researchers envision this new technology will not only improve prosthetics but also enable robots to experience human-like sensations. Study findings were published in the journal Science


Pentagon cyber official provides progress update on zero trust strategy roadmap | US Department of Defense

The Department of Defense is on track to complete implementation of its zero trust cybersecurity framework by 2027, according to David McKeown, the DoD’s deputy chief information officer and senior information security officer. McKeown emphasized the partnerships with commercial cloud providers as instrumental in achieving target capabilities. The zero trust framework aims to go beyond traditional network security methods, providing capabilities to reduce cyberattack exposure, enable risk management and data sharing, and swiftly remediate adversary activities. The strategy includes high-level goals for cultural adoption, defense of information systems, technology acceleration, and zero trust enablement. McKeown provided these updates during the Government Executive 2023 Cyber Summit in Washington.

The UK’s secretive web surveillance program is ramping up | Wired 

A recent Home Office report indicates that the UK government is testing new surveillance technology authorized under the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act. Under the law, a judge may order internet providers and phone companies to store and turn over internet connection records (ICRs), which may track what website or apps users access. Law enforcement is beginning small-scale tests of the technology focused on identifying users who access websites hosting illegal images of children, for example. However, there is a lack of transparency about how this technology operates and whether ICRs will be rolled out across the country. In July 2022, the Home Office awarded a contract to BAE Systems for a technical system to create a “national ICR service.” Critics are wary of ICRs given a history of a lack of protection of people’s data; a growth in data collection and retention may actually increase the potential for misuse or abuse. An independent review of the Investigatory Powers Act is expected to be published in a few months. 

State & Local Tech Ecosystems

Why Remote Work Could Lead to Less Innovation | Wall Street Journal

Keith Chen (UCLA), David Atkin (MIT), and Anton Popov (MIT) conducted a study to compare the innovation outcomes from unplanned meetings between employees from different companies. They used commercially available location data from over 425,000 mobile phones to track where individuals were working in Silicon Valley office spaces from 2016 to 2017. The researchers then analyzed patent applications including citations of other firms’ relevant patents. Working backward, they sought to trace where employees from the patent applicant and cited firms may have interacted for at least 30 minutes. While they cannot know the nature of these unplanned encounters, Chen, Atkin, and Popov established a positive correlation with cross-firm patent citations. Without chance meetings, such citations would decrease by about 8 percent. This finding is approximately twice as large as a similar effect found by studies that focused on the proximity of companies' offices. This study has important implications for the current era of remote work. If the planned and unplanned exchange of information between firms is decreasing as more people work from home, companies may become less innovative.  

Democracy Online

Twitter, Google win big at Supreme Court | Politico

This week, the Supreme Court rejected lawsuits against Google and Twitter and declined to address Section 230 reform that would walk back liability protections of internet companies for user-generated content. The plaintiffs in both cases sought to hold Google and Twitter accountable for ISIS terrorist activity. Additionally, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion that there was insufficient evidence to hold the companies liable for aiding and abetting terrorism under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. This is a win for the tech industry from multiple angles. Content moderation systems are currently unable to accurately screen 100% of content. Reducing the scope of Section 230 protections could “disincentivize [internet companies] from hosting any user generated content,” said Chris Marchese, the litigation center director for tech trade group NetChoice. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Congress may still choose to reform Section 230. 

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